Transportation representative Don Grantham touts benefits of transportation tax up for vote

Collections from a special 1 percent transportation tax that goes before voters July 31 could make up for budget shortfalls stalling road improvement projects, according to a state transportation representative.

Don Grantham, Georgia Department of Transportation District 10 representative, said the Augusta area needs to pass the transportation referendum if it expects much needed improvements. Grantham spoke on the tax vote at the monthly meeting of Pride and Progress of Augusta-Richmond County Tuesday night.

“We’re going to need to pass this to maintain our roads,” he said, adding that adequate transportation infrastructure will drive economic growth.

The tax referendum was created by the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. The state was divided into 12 regions where regional roundtables developed a list of projects. If passed, the tax will be in place for 10 years.

Grantham said the GDOT budget has been cut $375 million in two years. The shortfall has resulted in more local projects being denied state funding.

Of GDOT’s budget, about 97 percent comes from the state’s fuel tax. Fuel tax money is often not returned to all areas of the state, he said.

“We don’t want our money to go to Atlanta. We want our money to stay right here,” he said. “I call it the people’s bill. You get to collect it and you get to know how it’s spent.”

The 13-county Augusta region is projected to collect $841 million. Richmond, Columbia and McDuffie counties will be the largest contributors. Richmond County is expected to bring in $277.5 million.

Rural counties in the region have far fewer and less expensive projects on the list, but Grantham said those projects will never be accomplished without the special tax.

“Is that fair? We’re donating so these counties can get something in their area. Yes that’s fair,” he said. “They all come to Augusta to shop and spend their money.”